Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe says that there will be no room for complacency in the lead-up to the World Cup battle against the All Blacks. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The 31-man World Cup squad was announced in Johannesburg on Monday. The Boks will depart for Japan on Friday, and will play a World Cup warm-up game against the Brave Blossoms in Saitama on 6 September.
Rassie Erasmus and several of the players have confirmed that the Boks won’t be taking that game lightly. Erasmus intends to start a full-strength side in that fixture as the Boks look to build some momentum ahead of the tournament-proper.
The friendly against Japan should also serve as preparation for the all-important pool clash against the All Blacks on 21 September. The players will be looking to adjust to the local conditions as quickly as possible, and to improve in several areas ahead of a meeting with the world champions.
The Boks scored an important win against the All Blacks in Wellington last year. In the recently concluded Rugby Championship – which the Boks went on to win – South Africa fired late in the clash at the Cake Tin to claim a draw.
They have reason to believe that they can beat the All Blacks – now more so than in the previous four or five years. And yet, as Kolbe confirms, they won’t be taking anything for granted or buying into the perception that this is an All Blacks team in decline.
‘We can take a lot of belief and confidence out of last year’s win in Wellington and the more recent draw,’ Kolbe told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘That said, the All Blacks have never been an easy team to beat. If they pitch up and you’re not ready for that type of battle, it’s going to be a long day for you.
‘I know that the boys are keen and are working hard towards that game. It will lay the foundation for the rest of the World Cup campaign.’
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South Africa as well as New Zealand should beat Namibia, Italy and Canada to secure a place in the playoffs. The winner of the Pool B opener, however, is likely to top the group and face the runners-up of Pool A.
Erasmus has already confirmed that a second-string Bok side will front Namibia and Canada. Kolbe suggested that this selection policy shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of disrespect, as every member of the current Bok squad will be keen to make the most of his time on the park.
Kolbe added that the Boks will need to go into those games with the right attitude.
‘Everybody wants to make a mark at a World Cup so you can’t afford to be complacent. The team that’s the most disciplined and determined on the day will pull it through.’
Kolbe has enjoyed an unforgettable year. The elusive winger helped Toulouse clinch the Top 14 title and played a key role for the Boks in their first Rugby Championship trophy win in 10 years.
Will he go on to win the World Cup with South Africa and complete the treble?
‘I’m just humbled and blessed to be a part of this squad,’ he said.
‘I’ve grown a lot since moving to France – and not just rugby-wise but off the field too.
‘There have been more responsibilities. That’s helped me to make wiser decisions.
‘When I think about the past few years, I have been really blessed to win the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship. I’m looking forward to the World Cup.’
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